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President Pines' Virtual Conversation with Students

August 26, 2020

University of Maryland students were invited to join President Darryll J. Pines to learn about and discuss plans for the fall, including health and safety measures for the upcoming school year. Co-moderated by The Diamondback, this virtual conversation offered an opportunity to ask questions, exchange ideas, and stay connected with the Terp community.

UMD’s U.S. EDA Center to assist Maryland Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

August 19, 2020

Christine Hinojosa

College Park, Md. — A $300,000 grant has been awarded to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, University Center at the University of Maryland, College Park and Morgan State University (UMD-Morgan EDA Center) to help Maryland small businesses respond to the devastating economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Issued as part of the EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance, the grant will fund critical efforts by the UMD-Morgan EDA Center and its partners to boost technical assistance, supplies, creative approaches to business and commercial operations and pathways to entrepreneurship.

“This grant will further support our charge to help small businesses weather economic challenges, and the pandemic has only made that mission more vital,” said Gerrit Knaap, principal investigator and director of the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth, which houses the UMD-Morgan EDA Center.

The grant will fund three interrelated activities targeting the urgent challenges currently facing small businesses. These activities, Knaap says, will bring together expertise in technology, placemaking, economic development and research, offering on-the-ground assistance to help businesses adapt to the current and post-pandemic landscape.

Purple Line Corridor Small Business, Back-to-Mortar, Toolkit (PLT): Led by the University of Maryland, the PLT will provide technical assistance, custom personal protective equipment and resources to minority-owned small retail and restaurants already made vulnerable by the construction of the Purple Line light rail corridor. Expertise from UMD faculty and community-minded organizations, including Professor of Architecture Ronit Eisenbach, Urban Planning Lecturer Bobby Boone and Manuel Ochoa of Ochoa Urban Collaborative will help businesses navigate the safety aspects of service, re-think how they utilize public space to serve their customers and capitalize on legal, marketing and operational support. These efforts further the goals outlined in the Purple Line Community Development Agreement launched in 2017 by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a consortium of regional stakeholders led by UMD’s National Center for Smart Growth.

Baltimore City COVID-19 Response: Moran State University (MSU) will continue its work addressing the specific challenges of small businesses in Central and West Baltimore. The grant will allow MSU to bolster an established partnership with The Robinson Group (formerly the Mount Royal Community Development Corporation) and a network of over a dozen community stakeholders, nonprofits and economic think tanks, including CityLab, Coppin State, University, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance and The Living Well. Concentrating on small, minority-owned and minority-serving businesses, the network with identify strategies to increase success.

“I am excited to work with The Robinson Group (TRG) and its partners and alliances and the University of Maryland to develop strategies that will help Baltimore’s minority-owned or minority-serving small businesses to mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic through innovation, entrepreneurship, applications of new technologies, networking, and proper use and access to personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Siddhartha Sen, Associate Dean of the School of Architecture at Morgan State. “The project perfectly fits into Morgan State University's (MSU) mission as a Historically Black College/University (HBCU).” 

Innovation and entrepreneurship: To meet the shifting priorities and trends of a changing economic landscape, UMD, together with the University System of Maryland, will help small businesses pursue new business ideas, commercialize technology, connect to customers and discover niche markets and investors.

“Innovative thinking will be essential to Maryland’s economic recovery,” said Julie Lenzer, UMD’s Chief Innovation Officer. “This grant will help us develop programs to arm small businesses and innovators with the resources, expertise and tools to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing economic environment.”

Established in 2011, the UMD-Morgan EDA Center provides targeted assistance to Maryland communities through research, workforce development and entrepreneurship, as well as business counseling services. The Center also helps local organizations conduct preliminary feasibility studies, analyze data and convene customized seminars and workshops on topics such as regional strategic planning and capital budgeting. Under the direction of C. Scott Dempwolf and Sen, the center developed a comprehensive economic development strategy for the City of Baltimore and launched the Morgan Community Mile, an initiative that engages community stakeholders to define equitable, sustainable projects for the growing neighborhood surrounding Morgan State University.

Beyond immediate relief efforts, the work stemming from the CARES act grant will help the UMD-Morgan EDA Center build a foundation for future economic work and resiliency in Maryland.

The CARES Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020, provided the EDA with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.


UMD Researchers Discover a New Role for a Well-Known Molecule as a Plant Hormone, with Implications for Seed Production and Crop Yield

August 19, 2020

Samantha Watters 

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have discovered an entirely new role for a well-known plant molecule called ACC, providing the first clear example of ACC acting on its own as a likely plant hormone. Just like in humans and animals, hormones in plants carry messages to signal and trigger essential processes for plant health and functionality, from reproduction to defense. Without these processes, crops can’t reproduce and thrive to provide the food we need to feed a growing global population. In a new publication in Nature Communications, researchers show that ACC has a critical role in pollination and seed production by activating proteins similar to those involved in nervous system responses in humans and animals. These findings could not only change textbooks that have previously attributed plant responses to the hormone ethylene instead of ACC, but could also open the door for new research to improve plant health and crop yield. 

“There are several novel things about this paper,” explains Caren Chang, UMD. “But the main impact is that it introduces a new plant growth regulator or plant hormone, alongside a small handful of other publications. It isn’t a newly identified molecule, but it has never been thought of before as a plant hormone, only as the precursor to ethylene.”

Chang, a professor in Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics and affiliate professor of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture supported by the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES), explains that ethylene is one of the five major plant hormones and has been studied for over a century. It is important for many processes that are vital to plant health and crop production, including fruit ripening, stress responses to flooding and drought, plant disease defenses, germination, and flowering. 

“In much of the research, ACC has been used in place of ethylene, knowing that it’s a precursor that plants convert into ethylene. This is because ACC is easy to work with in powder form and can even be sprayed on the plant, but working with ethylene is very difficult because it is a gas. So researchers have used ACC for decades in place of ethylene, and the literature would interpret the observed responses as ethylene responses. What our paper shows is that an ACC response is not necessarily an ethylene response. While ethylene is an important plant hormone with its own set of functions, some of these responses that have been attributed to ethylene through ACC may actually be separate ACC responses, acting as a growth regulator or hormone itself.”

This finding opens the door for many papers across decades of research, as well as textbooks and future education on plant hormone responses, to be revised in the event that ACC is actually triggering important plant processes previously attributed to ethylene. 

According to Chang, the paper also presents advances in plant reproduction. “In the plant reproduction field, there are many steps that are critical in pollination, and one of these steps requires the pollen to reach the ovules to actually produce a seed,” says Chang. “Our paper shows that ACC signaling in the ovule is involved in getting the pollen tube to turn and effectively deliver the pollen, which makes it essential for seed production. It’s probably the first example showing how the maternal ovule tissue actually helps attract the pollen tube.” And this isn’t a small effect, Chang stresses. “The seed number pretty much doubles in the presence of ACC. There is potential here to improve the seed number, which can increase food production in certain crops and have an impact on food security long-term.”

Led by José Feijó, another professor in Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics and affiliate professor of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, another major finding of this paper shows clear connections between human, animal, and plant hormone signaling pathways by identifying a potential receptor for ACC activity. 

“The most interesting parallel is cell-cell communication,” explains Feijó. “Animal glutamate receptors are proteins which are needed for information to jump from one neuron to the next, either through an electric impulse or through calcium signaling, which is essential for things like memory. Problems in the processes mediated by glutamate receptors are known to be related to neurodegeneration and depression.”

Chang adds, “These receptors have been found in the human nervous system, and neuroscientists have been studying them for drug development to treat nervous system issues like depression. They found that ACC can actually affect the nervous system in humans. So we decided to look for the same receptors, named glutamate-like receptors (GLRs) in plants, to see if they respond to ACC in plants. We found that ACC can actually affect GLRs in plants as well.”

This finding opens an entirely new avenue of research in plant biology and points to similarities in plants and humans that are currently not well understood. “In plants, GLRs all seem to convey functions related to communication, either to bring male and female genes into an egg, or in pathogen or stress alert systems and defenses,” says Feijó. “Emerging trends suggest that GLRs underlie long distance electric signaling through the plant vascular system, where injury to tissues in one leaf inform the whole plant to create nasty substances to deter insects. All these lines seem to point into the existence of electric communication within plant tissues and organs, and that these functions involve GLRs. This is an interesting parallel evolution of a function for glutamate receptors as they evolved to be associated with the animal nervous systems to perform similar functions.”

With ACC as a new candidate activating GLRs and all the newly discovered roles it is playing as a plant hormone, Chang and the team are excited about the directions this work can go. “There is still a lot of research to be done to see how this is all happening and can be used in different crops, but all that new research can happen now.”

This paper, entitled “Ethylene-independent signaling by the ethylene precursor ACC in Arabidopsis ovular pollen tube attraction,” is published in Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17819-9

UMD Researchers Identify Structure of Blue Whirls

August 14, 2020

Robert Herschbach 410- 245-8959

COLLEGE PARK MD. – “Blue whirls”—small, spinning blue flames that produce almost no soot when they burn—have attracted great interest since their discovery in 2016, in part because they represent a potential new avenue for low-emission combustion.

Blue Whirl soot-free flameNow, a team of researchers at the University of Maryland and Texas A&M University have identified how these intriguing whirls are structured. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances on August 12, 2020,  their findings serve as a fundamental base for further investigations into how to create the blue whirl in a more controlled way.

The team includes now-graduated UMD aerospace engineering PhD students Joseph D. Chung and Xiao Zhang, working with Professor Elaine S. Oran, who is TEES Eminent Research Professor at Texas A&M University and previously Glenn L. Martin Professor at UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, and Dr. Carolyn R. Kaplan of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at UMD.

Using high-performance computing methods at the University of Maryland’s Deepthought2 cluster and other computer systems, the researchers showed that a blue whirl is composed of three different flames—a diffusion flame and a premixed rich and lean flame—all of which meet in a fourth structure, a triple flame that appears as a whirling blue ring. The researchers also found that vortex breakdown—a fluid instability that occurs in swirling flows--enables the blue-whirl structure to emerge. 

“The flame and flow structure revealed by the simulations serves as a fundamental base to further investigate how to create the blue whirl in a more controlled way,” said Zhang. “It leads pathways to answering more complex questions.”

“Examples of such questions are: How to create blue whirls in different scales? Can we bypass the transitional, sooty, dangerous fire whirl stage and create the stable and clean blue whirl directly? The newly developed algorithms and models also provide great exploring tools to find these answers,” Chung said.

Blue whirls were initially discovered in 2016 by Oran, working with Professor Michael Gollner, previously of the Fire Protection Engineering Department and now at University of California, Berkeley, and Professor Huahua Xiao, previously in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at UMD and now at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China. At the time, they were investigating the behavior of a known phenomenon—the fire whirl, also known as fire tornado—when it occurs on a water base. 

“Blue whirls evolve from traditional yellow fire whirls,” Oran said. “The yellow color is due to radiating soot particles, which form when there is not enough oxygen to burn the fuel completely.”

“Blue in the whirl indicates there is enough oxygen for complete combustion, which means less or no soot, and is therefore a cleaner burn. We now know that blue whirl will burn all of the fuel available as it exits a burner or from a surface.”

Support for the new study was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, the Army Research Laboratory, and the Minta Martin Endowment Funds in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, and the TEES Eminent Professorship at TAMU. Computations used in the new study were performed on the University of Maryland, Deepthought2 cluster, Thunder from the Air Force Research Laboratory, and Stampede2 from the Texas Advanced Computing Center.


University of Maryland Partners with Big Ten Academic Alliance in Online Course Sharing Program

August 12, 2020

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland will participate in the Big Ten Academic Alliance Course Sharing Program, a new collaborative initiative offering undergraduate students of participating Big Ten Institutions the opportunity to diversify their learning experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and take online courses from other Big Ten universities.

Maryland is one of seven Big Ten institutions that make up the inaugural course-sharing cohort for the 2020-2021 academic year. Other participating universities include: Indiana University, Michigan State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University and Rutgers University-New Brunswick. 

“We recognize the need to think of new and innovative ways to approach teaching and learning this semester and beyond,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “As members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, we are happy to find yet another collaborative opportunity with our fellow Big Ten institutions to support our students through this pandemic.”

Beginning immediately, undergraduate students may begin to register for one shared course per semester with no additional charges for tuition or fees from the partner institution. Completed courses will be treated as transfer credits on official transcripts. The current course options cover a variety of topics and disciplines. 

Some of Maryland’s course offerings include:

• Causes and Implications of Global Change
• Why Good Managers Make Bad Decisions
• Black Diaspora Literature and Culture 

Examples of courses offered at other institutions include: 

• Music of War and Peace
• Anthropology of the Great Plains
• Personal Finance
• Dracula: Facts and Fictions
• Critical Issues in Sports Media. 

More information about Maryland’s shared course offerings is available here: 

For more information on the Big Ten Academic Alliance Course Sharing Program, please visit:


About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students,10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 59 members of the national academies. The institution has a $2.1 billion operating budget and secures more than $1 billion annually in research funding together with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit

University of Maryland Joins Common Application for 2020-2021

August 12, 2020
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Students applying to the University of Maryland will now have the ability to do so through the Common Application, also known as the Common App. The online college application platform currently serves more than three million applicants, teachers, counselors and advisors across all 50 states and around the world each year.
“We remain committed to expanding access to potential future Terps by offering them another option to apply through the Common App, in addition to the existing MyCoalition platform,” said Shannon Gundy, executive director, UMD’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “We are very proud to receive tens of thousands of applicants each year, and we constantly reassess ways to streamline pathways for a wide population of diverse and academically talented students to apply to be part of the Terrapin community.” 
The Common App helps reduce common barriers to the college application process, including making the fee waiver process more efficient for students in need. It also connects students and those who support students through Common App to additional tools and services, such as  financial aid and scholarship information, virtual mentors, online portfolios, and a vast library of counselor resources available in English and Spanish. Common App also offers 24/7/365 technical support to all applicants and recommenders using the system. 
Starting August 12, 2020, the Common App will be available to students applying to the University of Maryland. Future first-year students can choose to apply through the Common App or the institution’s existing MyCoalition platform, a free and accessible platform of online tools to streamline the experience of planning for and applying to college. Students seeking to transfer to the University will be able to submit their application through MyCoalition in mid-October. 
Common App is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process. By becoming a Common App member, the University of Maryland aims to streamline the application process for students interested in applying to multiple institutions, and gain exposure to students who may not have otherwise considered UMD. Each year, more than one million applicants use the Common App. One-third of those applicants are the first in their family to pursue a college degree. 
"The diversity of our membership helps us forge a direct and unambiguous path to a viable future for all students,” said Jenny Rickard, President & CEO of Common App. “Through membership with Common App, University of Maryland has demonstrated a shared commitment to pursuing access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process. Thanks to our members, all students have the opportunity to easily apply to the college or university that will help them achieve their best future.” 
The Common App, as well as the MyCoalition platform, enhances UMD’s holistic approach to the admissions process, considering 26 unique factors. The review process for both application platforms consider all aspects of each applicant’s academic achievements and potential in the context of the opportunities and challenges they faced. Admission is offered  to the most competitive applicants to build an entering class that will best complement the existing student body and meet the university’s mission objectives.


UMD Announces SAT/ACT Tests Optional for Spring and Fall 2021 Admission

July 17, 2020

COLLEGE PARK, Md - The following announcement was made by the university’s Office of Enrollment Management today: 

The University of Maryland will make SAT and ACT scores optional for the spring and fall 2021 freshman and transfer application processes. As a result of the unprecedented disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that many students will not be able to access the SAT and ACT tests that are traditionally required in order to apply for admission. While these tests have proven to be valuable components of our holistic application review, we are committed to ensuring that students who have already been negatively impacted by COVID-19 are not further disadvantaged. 

"The pandemic has caused suffering and loss, as well as barriers to students taking the SAT/ACT to complete the college application process. In reviewing our policies and choosing test optional for 2021, we aim to support and reassure students at this difficult time,” said Shannon Gundy, UMD’s executive director of undergraduate admissions. “We have always sought to attract a wide applicant pool of highly talented and motivated students, and we believe this decision will create a clearer pathway for students who want to pursue a degree at Maryland."

Prospective students will have the ability to choose on their application whether they plan to submit SAT or ACT test scores to be considered as a part of their application review. If students choose to submit test scores, those results will be incorporated into our holistic review as one factor among the many that are considered in our evaluations. Students who choose not to submit scores or are unable to access test administrations will also receive a holistic review and will not be disadvantaged in the application review process. This process will also include a review for living and learning programs and merit scholarships. The university’s English proficiency requirements will remain in place.

The university remains committed to recruiting, admitting, and enrolling a class of academically talented, diverse and engaged students and are confident that this decision will allow us to continue to do so for the class of 2025.

University of Maryland Solidifies Commitment to International Students

July 14, 2020

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Following the announcement of new federal regulations earlier this month to deny international students taking online-only classes residency in the United States, the University of Maryland is executing a multi-faceted approach to provide support and pursue legal action on behalf of its international students. 

In a letter released by the University System of Maryland (USM) on July 13, 2020, it was announced that Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh will represent the State of Maryland and the USM as a plaintiff in a multi-state lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and that every USM institution, including UMD, is working with its international students to ensure they can remain enrolled and compliant with ICE guidance. 

President Darryll J. Pines is working closely with the Maryland Congressional delegation and national higher education associations to pass a legislative fix to protect the immigration status of the campus community’s international students for the upcoming fall academic semester. Continued support from the university additionally includes working closely with the office of the Maryland Attorney General, implementing academic solutions for in-person opportunities and collaborating with its Big Ten university peers to provide a safe, inclusive and enriching environment for its students.

More information on how the university is currently planning to handle academic instruction can be found here. To read the statement released by the University System of Maryland regarding the lawsuit, please visit their website.

Commission Reaffirms UMD’s Accreditation

July 8, 2020

Natifia Mullings  301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has reaffirmed the University of Maryland’s accreditation, following a nearly yearlong review.

In a July 1 letter to university President Darryll J. Pines, commission President Heather F. Perfetti stated that as a result of its virtual visit to campus this spring, it found that the university is now in compliance with Standard VII (Governance, Leadership and Administration). It said the university had made corrective measures and showed evidence of a clearly articulated and transparent governance structure that outlines roles, responsibilities and accountability for decision-making by UMD, the University System of Maryland and the Board of Regents.

The next evaluation is scheduled for 2025-26.


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March 30
University of Maryland places seven graduate programs in the top five and 25 in the top 20. Read